'Summer of Opportunity' kicks off in Austin

CHICAGO (WLS) -- There's a new program to keep children away from harm while they're out of school this summer. It's a program designed make this a "Summer of Opportunity" for kids in at-risk neighborhoods.

They took steps for peace through Chicago's Austin neighborhood and came together in hopes of making sure this is a Summer of Opportunity for young people, not one of violence.

"I am very much concerned about the summer because, when it gets hot, people come out," said parent Regina Jones.

"So with us coming together as one, it helps stops the violence and speaks to the community," said participant Tyrice Trapp.

They spread that message in the community block-by-block with the parade going for about a mile on Jackson Boulevard and ending in Columbus Park with a big celebration.

"Kids are dying young. It's just good for kids to be able to go outside, not to worry about losing their life to gun violence," said participant Minosa Echols.

The non-profit youth service organization, BUILD, put the event together along with other community groups that connected young people and their parents with resources for the summer including jobs, camps and mentoring.

"School just got out a few days ago, so what better way than to kick off the summer with a positive way for families and kids enjoying the time and hopefully get plugged in for summer opportunities if they weren't before," said BUILD Executive Director Adam Alonso.

Community leaders said keeping kids busy during the summer is key.

"That's less time for them to be hanging out doing nothing. So that's why we appreciate organizations like BUILD for being here, helping to give young people options," said Ald. Jason Ervin (28th Ward).

"My school we have a lot of programs where we do some after school matter jobs where students get a chance to work and not feel like they have to be in the street," said CPS Principal Charles Anderson.

One of the main goals of the event was for the kids to have fun and that's exactly what happened in Columbus Park on Friday.

BUILD hopes to hold a "Summer of Opportunity" event again next year.
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